State College, Pa. – Sydney Fabian reached base in the 10th inning on an error and later scored on another miscue as the Gophers beat Michigan 4-3 on Saturday night in 10 innings in the championship game of the Big Ten softball tournament.
Danielle Parlich hit a hard grounder to shortstop on the game-winning play, and the ball bounced away, allowing Fabian to score from second with a slide when the throw home was off target.
“When you put the ball in play, good things happen,” Gophers coach Jessica Allister said. “It was just gritty, gritty, getting tough in the [batter’s] box.”
The Wolverines, 46-5 and ranked No. 2 in the USA Today/NFCA coaches’ poll, and the No. 23 Gophers (41-12) battled evenly throughout the game. Michigan scored single runs in the top of the first, third and sixth innings. The Gophers responded with a run in the bottom half of each.
The Wolverines’ Megan Betsa, the Big Ten pitcher of the year, held Minnesota to three hits and struck out nine while walking eight though nine innings before Sara Driesenga relieved her.
Junior righthander Sara Groenewegen of Minnesota gave up nine hits and had 11 strikeouts in winning her third game of the tournament and second of the day.
“A lot of people outside Minnesota don’t believe we can do it — be a Top 25 team in the country,” said Groenewegen, who improved to 30-5. She threw 158 pitches against Michigan, 283 for the day.
In the first, Michigan took a 1-0 lead when Sierra Romero hit a solo homer. Sam Macken scored for the Gophers on a wild pitch. Sierra Lawrence scored on a sacrifice fly to put Michigan ahead 2-1 in the third. Maddie Houlihan’s sacrifice fly tied the score.
Michigan, the top seed and the conference regular-season champion, regained the lead at 3-2 on Tera Blanco’s 12th homer of the season. Parlich’s infield hit off the third baseman’s glove tied it 3-all in the sixth.
Earlier, the Gophers beat Northwestern 8-4 in the first semifinal; Michigan beat Penn State 6-1 in the second. Groenewegen hit a three-run homer, Paige Palkovich a solo shot and Macken a two-run homer.
Up next for Gophers
What: 64-team NCAA tournament (automatic bid)
Selection show: 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU
Schedule: Regionals, next weekend at 16 campus sites (double-elimination); Super Regionals, May 26-29 (best-of-three series at eight campus sites); College World Series, June 2-8 in Oklahoma City.